The Carraig Man

Earlier this year, I entered the Fearie Tales competition for “Winter Words” at Pitlochry Festival Theatre. The brief was to write a short horror story of between 2250 and 3250 words. The story also had to have roots in Scotland.

I was really pleased to find out that I had won, and that my story was to be read out at the theatre, which my wife and I went to hear. Now that the competition is over, I can publish that short story here for everyone to read (though Word to WordPress has ruined the formatting and I’ve spent an hour trying to make it look only marginally better…).


The Carraig Man

A winter’s evening, perhaps in the Highlands, or perhaps in the Lowlands. You’re in the grassy fields with the standing stones, nearby the village. Just before the sun becomes dull enough to look at, a flash of light on the horizon makes you blink. As you clear away the spots in your vision, you’ll swear that the old man standing by the stones wasn’t there a second ago. After all, that’s just ridiculous: old men don’t just appear out of thin air.

Only that is what just happened.

The Carraig Man is here.

The Carraig Man isn’t a person, like you, or like me. The Carraig Man is something different. The Carraig Man is something else.

The night begins to fall, and you soon forget the sudden appearance of the old man in the field with the standing stones. Much like the many others who behold the Carraig Man, you return to your business and make your way home before the night blankets the village.

The night is dark. The night is cold. Most importantly, the night is long. The Carraig Man has work to do, and it doesn’t like to be rushed.

The Carraig Man makes its way through the village, noting its route as it stops to rest on all of the benches positioned away from the streetlights. The Carraig Man doesn’t visit the same village every night, but that’s not to say that it hasn’t visited yours recently, or that it won’t visit yours again. The Carraig Man has been around for a very long time. Streetlights are something that the Carraig Man is still getting used to.

The Carraig Man finds a place that folk like to gather, hiding in plain sight. A place with low light and secluded corners. A place that the Carraig Man can watch you all, undisturbed.


The Carraig Man finds a pub. A gathering where folk can join in with one another, or spend some time alone. The Carraig Man always manages to find a dark corner by itself. The Carraig Man isn’t particularly fond of the light we insist on placing everywhere. The Carraig Man may look like an old fellow at a glance, but if you chance upon spending any amount of time really looking at it, you’ll see that not everything is what you might expect. The Carraig Man’s lips are too thin and too wide, housing a mouth that is larger than you or I would need. Its ears are ever-so-slightly pointed at the top, and the lobes dangle like jelly. The Carraig Man smiles, but it never reveals its teeth, or licks its lips. At least not where everyone can see. The Carraig Man has no eyebrows, but it does have a wiry mass of thick, grey hair, with a double crown. The Carraig Man cannot stand straight, but this is not a frailty.

These are all the features that you should be looking out for on strangers you might meet on the winter nights, but these aren’t features that you’ll be able to see as the Carraig Man watches you from its dimly-lit spot in the hum of the pub at night. If you find yourself in the company of an old man that matches this description, you have met the Carraig Man. It is probably already too late for you.

The Carraig Man nurses a single drink for the entire time it watches you all. The Carraig Man doesn’t much care for alcohol, for it gives him nothing desirable. It drinks only water, and will only begin to sip it when it has thoroughly warmed up from the chill of the tap. The Carraig Man may appear to be nothing more than a lonely old man that drinks alone, but you won’t feel sorry for it unless it wants you to. The Carraig Man works slowly, and it may have been among you all for several hours before it decides which of you it wants.

Eventually, the Carraig Man strikes.

The Carraig Man doesn’t rush in like some ferocious beast or starved animal. The Carraig Man can go for weeks without feeding. The Carraig Man is slow. The Carraig Man is careful. It fixes its gaze upon the one or two of you that it wants. It is never clear what causes the Carraig Man to make its decision, but its decision is always correct. The Carraig Man always gets what it chooses.

It casts quick glances at you with sad-looking eyes. At first they drop away, whenever you happen to meet them. You will feel its eyes on you. It isn’t altogether unpleasant, but it isn’t altogether nice. If you ever happen to notice an old man watching you, face hidden mostly by shadow, circling its long fingers around the rim of a half-full glass of water, as a winter’s night wears on outside, know now that this is the time you should leave, should you wish to avoid meeting with the Carraig Man.


You don’t leave. The old man may be strange, but he is just an old man, and old men aren’t anything to be worried about. Certainly not a decrepit and lonely man, such as the one that sits and drinks alone in a pub. You look back at it, and this time, it meets your gaze. The Carraig Man smiles. The Carraig Man gently waves.

The Carraig Man ignores you for the rest of your evening. Whether you are alone or with friends, the Carraig Man has marked you, and you are now his.

For you, the night begins to draw to an end. For the Carraig Man, its work is just beginning.

As the patrons order their last drinks, and others head off out into the night, the Carraig Man gulps down the last mouthful of its water. For some reason, you notice this act specifically, and you feel that it too, is time for you to leave. As you finish your own drink and begin to say goodbye to those you know, you realise that the old man is no longer sat in the corner. Only an empty glass remains on the table or windowsill. As an inexplicable wave of relief washes over your tired body, a thin but strong hand grabs you by the elbow. Others around you smile and laugh as you realise the old man from the corner has come to see you. The Carraig Man is about to begin its work.

The Carraig Man beckons with a finger that seems to be one knuckle too long, inviting you to step closer. The Carraig Man’s wide lips barely move, but the corners of its eyes curl in a manner that makes you instinctively draw in to listen. You feel its lips brush the edge of your ear. You can’t remember the words that the Carraig Man whispers, but you know that the Carraig Man is old and far from home.

You know that the Carraig Man wants help.

You’re not quite sure where the Carraig Man wants you to take it, but you don’t feel worried and you don’t feel scared. After all, you’re only being asked to get an old man to his home, and good deeds never go unrewarded. Friends might raise their eyebrows, and you might think of your warm, cosy bed. It seems so easy to say no and let the old man find somebody else to take him home. But you don’t say no. You nod your head and agree to help. Everybody does after the Carraig Man whispers to them.

The Carraig Man leads you outside.

The night is dark, and the night is cold. Most importantly for the Carraig Man, the night is long, and it has work to do. Your breath mists around your face, and your journey begins.

The Carraig Man takes your hand. It doesn’t feel strange that you are the one following and it is the one leading. Despite the chill of the night, you feel warmth as the ancient figure leads you by the hand. The Carraig Man takes you through the darkest streets and along the narrowest of alleys. Away from the buzz and glow of the bustling areas of the village. The Carraig Man prefers the shadow. The Carraig Man doesn’t want to be seen. Yet.

You begin to leave the houses behind, via paths you probably never knew existed. The Carraig Man comes to know all of the available routes before he chooses you. The night loses the artificial glow from the windows, replaced with the cold light of the moon and stars. The dark shadows of munros loom to your sides as the Carraig Man carries you away from any house you may have thought it was heading to. It picks up speed. It knows where it is going, and you’re happy to follow along. You think of that warm bed waiting for you after you reach the old man’s destination.

After all, it is just an old man.

The Carraig Man leads you into the field with the standing stones. There is nobody around. There is never anybody around when the Carraig Man is ready to do what he came to do.

You find yourself standing between the stones. You notice the small, circular holes in the top of the stones as the Carraig Man begins to dance around you, all gangly limbs and strands of hair bouncing as they catch the moonlight. He moves slowly, like in a dream.

The Carraig Man stops and looks directly into your eyes.

And the spell is broken.

Fear drenches you. The night feels colder, and that fuzzy kindliness you felt on your walk from the pub vanishes. You are frozen to the spot as the Carraig Man stares. You try to think, but you can’t work out where you are. You don’t remember how to call out, or get attention. You are silent. This is how all of the Carraig Man’s victims behave as its eyes bore into yours.

The Carraig Man shows its teeth.

It lets its tongue slither out of its cavern. The tongue is so long that it makes you shiver, but that tongue is the least of your worries now.

The Carraig Man draws in. You are so terrified that you feel like your heart will explode in your chest. But you don’t run. You can’t run. The Carraig Man has you transfixed.

The Carraig Man drapes a long and slender arm around your neck, fingers brushing the edges of your ears. Its legs straddle yours, and its waist closes in to touch against your belly. The Carraig Man sighs, revelling in the moment, delighted in its success.

For a moment, there is only silence, and depths of the black, liquid eyes that drill into the back of your mind.

The Carraig Man no longer looks like an old man. The Carraig Man looks like what it is. Something different. Something else.

You feel it first in the pit of your stomach. A gentle sucking, of your insides moving upwards. Your stomach is drawn inwards, and the back of your throat tightens. The fingers around the back of your head slide down and grip more firmly around your neck. The other hand caresses gently up and down the length of your spine. Its misshapen face is the single most terrifying and beautiful thing you have ever seen, or will see ever again. The pain begins, but the fingers on your back somehow calm you. They stop you from screaming out. The air disappears from your lungs and won’t return. You see your hands pushing against the chest of the Carraig Man. They appear pale and thin. Veins protrude. Your legs begin to shake, and you start to feel less… there, than you were a moment ago. Your head falls back into the Carraig Man’s hands as it draws out the very essence of your being. Your eyes slide back and stare up into the night sky above. You watch the moon as it charts its long journey across the night sky.

The Carraig Man doesn’t like to be rushed.

You feel smaller. Lower. The Carraig Man towers over you. The pain is gone. You are almost gone. You linger on the cold precipice of nothingness. You think of your nice, warm bed. It is still there, whether or not you will be joining it.

You realise that you are looking up at the blades of grass, at the underside of the Carraig Man’s chin as it stares out into the remainder of the night. You feel a momentary pang of sadness and loss as you realise that this is the end and you were powerless to stop it. You close your eyes for the last time as the red light of the morning creeps over.


The Carraig Man stands between the standing stones in the field and looks down at the empty pile of clothes its victim once wore. As it stares at them, the grass and dirt claim them, dragging them below and out of sight.

The Carraig Man places a hand on one of the standing stones. Two fingers, one knuckle too long on each, push through the hole in the stone as the two either side press up against the lichen-covered roughness. The tip of the orb that is the sun crests the horizon, and for the briefest of moments there is a flash. As the flash fades, and early passers-by rub their eyes, they wonder where the old man has gone that they saw in the field, among the standing stones. After all, that’s just ridiculous: old men don’t just vanish out of thin air.

Only that is what just happened.

The Carraig Man was here.

The Carraig Man isn’t a person, like you, or like me. The Carraig Man is something different. The Carraig Man is something else.

The Carraig Man will appear again. Perhaps in the Highlands, or perhaps in the Lowlands. The Carraig Man will return. There is always work to be done.


Cold Call is now available!

I’ve finally published my first story!

Cold Call is now available on the Amazon Kindle Store and will be free between October 14th and 16th to celebrate the release of my first novella (price after offer is just 99p). Perfect for a Halloween!

Cold calls. Private numbers. Incessant ringing…

They’re not going to stop, so when are you going to answer?


To find out more about Cold Call and the upcoming Havelock’s Path, visit my facebook page.

Cold Call

Although it’s a been a long time since I last wrote anything here, it’s largely been down to having no free time to get on here. I’ve watched my daughter swiftly grow from a one-month-old to a five-month-old, worked on the last parts of the wedding (and by worked, I mean sold much of my stuff in order to pay for the day – who ever said videogames wouldn’t get me anywhere?), moved house, worked a huge amount, and written a first and second draft of a short horror story that I’m hoping to get up for sale some time very soon.

Cold Call charts the swift collapse of the world as you and I know it, brought about when all of the world’s phones begin to ring in unison. It’s just weird at first, but then it happens again, and again, and people begin to realise what is happening to those that have answered…

If it sounds interesting, keep an eye out for it! I’m hoping to publish it as an e-book, and for free as well to begin with.

Hey, it made me think twice about answering the phone when it rang at 10:30pm recently 🙂

The Wheel of Time – Channelling A Magical Weave

The Wheel of Time turns and Ages come and go, leaving memories that become legend. Legend fades to myth, and even myth is long forgotten when the Age that gave it birth returns again. In 2016, an Age of Kindles and long train journeys, this reader finally finished the epic fifteen-book series through the Westlands. The fate of future story enjoyment hangs in the balance. What was, what is, and what will be may never compare to the journey I went on in Robert Jordan’s epic collection.


There are many, many, fantasy series out there, and one of greatest (first world) troubles a reader of fantasy might have is picking a series to read. If you only have limited time to read each day, then you’ll want to make sure you lock yourself into something good! I don’t know about you, but if I start something, I damn well finish it. Even if it turns sour before the end. The Wheel of Time was an enormous series to get stuck into, and while we had our ups and downs, our slow times and our fast, I regret none of the time I spent with Rand Al’Thor and the hundreds of characters he meets.

It all starts innocently enough. Emond’s Field in the Two Rivers region is a sleepy farming village that is cut off from much of the developing world. The people live a simple life and keep very much to themselves, so much so that even the Monarch has nothing to do with the place, and few are sure whether or not they even have a King or Queen. Emond’s Field is home to three very important young men (among other characters who form a large part of the story!); Rand Al’Thor, Matrim Cauthon, and Perrin Aybara. All three of them catch glimpses of an evil presence close to home, prior to the arrival of a fabled Aes Sedai and her Warder, Moiriane Sedai and Lan Al’Mandragoran. Within a few chapters, the three boys are whisked off out of the village on a journey to the Northern reaches of the known world. From there, the story spreads out across the world, with our characters splitting up and having their own adventures with a grand cast of characters. The whole set up is remarkably similar to my favourite genre of videogame, the JRPG. It was easy to get caught up in the unfolding adventure told in The Eye of the World, and it was no time at all before I’d tapped right on the side of my Kindle Paperwhite for the last time, and was prompted to purchase The Great Hunt for £6.99 (if you’re interested, the whole Kindle series set me back £104.85).

Throughout the first couple of novels, I found Rand Al’Thor to be a great main character; a man struggling to come to terms with unwanted nightmares, unknown enemies, and the small matter of being able to wield the tainted male half of the One Power, Saidin. For obvious reasons, the man who would end up becoming the Dragon Reborn was the focal point at the beginning of the series, but it wasn’t long before the sheer number of characters in the book left poor old Rand Al’Thor being swept somewhat by the wayside, and putting in minimal appearances for much of the story, and many of those did little to forward his story until late in each entry.

Now, I really did enjoy the overall story of The Wheel of Time, but it was frustrating to come to terms with reading so little about the character that the whole story was originally focused on. Fortunately, the vast majority of the players in this story were all interesting in their own way, and the annoyance of losing Rand’s journey was often diminished by discovering more on how Perrin had become able to talk with the wolves, and watching how Mat managed to come out on top again and again, no matter the dire situations he found himself in. And Jordan doesn’t just limit us to the three boys, he opens up the story to the point of view of characters from around the world and from all walks of life. Chief among these characters are the Aes Sedai – women who can channel Saidar, the untainted, female half of the One Power – and the women who would eventually become them. Egwene Al’Vere and Nynaeve Al’Meara from Emond’s Field play a huge role in the story, The Amyrlin Seat Siuan Sanche (chief among the Aes Sedai) follows a tragic tale that would have been a great story told alone. Countless women from the seven Ajahs (factions) of the White Tower (headquarters of the Aes Sedai) take the reigns at various points and give us new insights into the workings of the Tower, and we also get to find out how three women in love with Rand Al’Thor overcome the difficulties of all wanting to be with the same man (spoiler alert – Rand just gets to be with three women…). We even get to spend a good deal of time with several unsavoury characters that are acting in the interests of the Dark One.

It is always refreshing to see how the evil characters view the unfolding story, and it also means we get to spend more time with Jordan’s excellent horde of vicious monsters and terrifying beings. Jordan’s Trollocs form the footsoldiers to rival Tolkien’s Orcs, huge creatures formed of an unnatural mixture of human and animal. More chilling are the Myrddraal, evil creatures that drive the Trollocs and form the basis of tales told to scare children around the world. Similar in build to men, Myrddraal have no eyes yet no disability when it comes to locating their prey. They can move on shadows and disappear when escape seems possible. They move with horrifying speed and an attack from their blade nearly always proves fatal. Elsewhere are the vampire-like Draghkar, Seanchan monstrosities from across the ocean that resemble great lizards and dragons, and the nightmares that inhabit the dead Blight to the north. Everything on offer feels very much a part of the world they inhabit, and are a change to oft-used goblins that are seen in many a fantasy tale. With these creatures, the story can often become quite violent, with many a ruined throat and charred corpse to be found. However, the writing itself remains largely clean throughout (assuming you aren’t offended by “bloody” and “flaming”, otherwise this will be the most foul-mouthed story you’ve ever read).


One of the most interesting aspects of The Wheel of Time is the One Power. Split into two halves of Saidin and Saidar, that can be used exclusively by men and women with the talent, the magic of the story is ubiquitous enough that it can be used in almost any situation without feeling forced, or simply a means to an end. Certain characters have greater abilities with different aspects of the power, such as fire and earth magic, healing, or controlling the weather. The One Power allows us to see the usual range of magical abilities we expect to see in fantasy, and still manages to feel very much a product of the story itself, and not something borrowed from other stories you may have read.

With the One Power being such an important force in the world of The Wheel of Time, the taint-free female half of the power has caused the world to develop into a very women-oriented place. Men who can channel are reviled, doomed to go mad and threaten the very fabric of the world, capable of bringing dark forces that everyone should rightly be terrified of. As such, the rare men who can channel are hunted by the Aes Sedai, and elsewhere around the world are simply exiled or sent to their deaths by various forms of execution. That the Dragon Reborn – the man destined to battle the Dark One and bring peace to the world – is a man that can channel, there are mixed feelings throughout the world debating whether or not such a man should be allowed to thrive or be neutered. After all, without a Dragon for the prophecies, the fated end times cannot come without him there.

A frenzied reaction from the Aes Sedai takes place whenever a man pipes up that he is the said saviour of the world. Rand Al’Thor is one of several men who end up proclaiming themselves as the Dragon Reborn around the beginnings of the story (very rarely can four novels be classed as the beginnings, but they certainly are in this case). Of all of the men, Rand is the most reluctant, terrified of going mad and rotting away, unable to accept that friends and family will come to revile him for the power he holds and the destiny he faces, and very uneasy of the prospects of fulfilling the prophecies he is bound to carry out. Yet despite his reluctance, Rand finds himself ticking off the boxes one by one, locating the Eye of the World and the Horn of Valere, dispatching the first of the awakened Forsaken, agents of the Dark Lord, and eventually proclaiming himself the Dragon Reborn itself. Rand’s rise to the Dragon is very well done, and his struggles with the torrent of pure power that is Saidin had me believing he would be ruined long before the climax of the story.

It is at around the point of Rand accepting his status at the Dragon Reborn that the story begins to slow down and lose momentum. Rather than pushing on full steam ahead towards the destined Last Battle, books five to ten begin to spend more time with many different characters as they spread out around the world, seeking out the tools needed for Rand and hunting down the secretive members of the Dark One’s forces. At the time, reading these books wasn’t so much of a chore as it was just mildly frustrating. All the places that Jordan takes us are interesting, and I don’t care how many times Nynaeve tugged her braid, or an Aes Sedai smoothed her skirt, each character felt unique and interesting, especially as we get to see the story from several very different points of view. It’s just that… well, we know that Rand’s nemeses, the Forsaken, are out there and gaining power. I wanted to see him deal with them more regularly, and the snippets we see of Rand edging ever closer to each one made it a huge tease when it seemed a huge chapter was on the horizon, only to be diverted away by another day spent with a travelling circus.

As the story begins to draw to a close (and by close, I mean the final ~4000 pages), big things begin to happen with the male half of the One Power, and it finally feels like the story is picking up again. Unfortunately, it was at around this point in 2007 that Robert Jordan sadly died, unable to finish his story within his lifetime after releasing 11 releases in the main story, and one prequel book. Back in 2007, I was already reading The Wheel of Time but was only at the fifth book, The Fires of Heaven, and perhaps misguidedly decided to give up on a story that I doubted would ever see an end. In a somewhat surprising turn, the series was picked up by renowned fantasy author Brandon Sanderson, and wrapped up in a further three entries.

Now, I have no idea what Jordan’s intentions were for the remainder of the story. I mean, everyone that has finished the series will have the gist of it, but was this exactly what had originally been planned? My personal opinion is that Brandon Sanderson was the best thing to happen to the series, and I mean this with no disrespect to Robert Jordan himself (after all, he created this amazing world that so many have become lost in), but I can’t help but think that had Jordan carried on, the Wheel of Time would have ended up as twenty books, and probably wouldn’t have been finished even now. The Gathering Storm was the twelfth book in the series, and from the first pages it becomes apparent that the pace of the story has finally kicked into high gear, with developments coming thick and fast and a tangible sense of foreboding growing throughout the final three novels. It really feels as though the world is coming to an end, hope is sparse and death is ubiquitous. With each book, the Dark One and his minions inch closer and closer to their goal of annihilating the world of light, and by the time the last battle came around (which is largely the entirety of the final book, A Memory of Light), I was tearing through pages, desperate to find out how everyone fared. I even had re-read a few pages several times just so that I could take in what was happening to these people I had been reading about for fourteen books. With so many people dropping with each page, I began feeling quite shell-shocked by how sudden each loss was, and how the characters had no time to mourn in face of the disasters around them.

One might think that changing authors would derail and ruin a story, and anybody would have been forgiven for being wary of seeing what was about to become of their favourite characters. By and large, Sanderson did an excellent job of maintaining the essence of the characters we all know and love. In fact, out of the hundreds of characters he had to deal with, only Mat Cauthon felt a little off. And that isn’t to say that he was badly written – some of my favourite chapters of the final three books focused on Mat – he just felt slightly different, as though we were picking up the story in an alternate dimension where the only difference was Mat was a bit… funnier. Given all of the dimensions that Rand witnesses early on in the story, this is probably a fairly acceptable way to look at the last three books.

Thanks to the urgency and horror contained with the final novels, the slower books in the middle of series take on a new life. We are able to look back on a time where the world wasn’t on the brink of disaster, and the forces of good were still able to keep the situation in hand. Had the whole series run at the same pace, then the Last Battle wouldn’t have had the impact it now does.

The Wheel of Time is a huge commitment. Fourteen main books and a shorter prequel. Each book is somewhere between 600 and 1200 pages, and they more commonly lean toward the larger number. Reading the series took me eleven months, and as I closed the final book I was met with an emptiness that I have never felt from a story before. It is always sad to say goodbye to any great characters from a book, but I spent a lot of time with Rand Al’Thor and company. The story was wrapped up well, and in my mind the characters still live on in the their world, enjoying new adventures that we’ll never read about. Turning the final pages didn’t feel like reaching the ending of The Wheel of Time. There are no endings, and never will be endings, to the turning of The Wheel of Time. But it was an ending.

Mór Reodh Pub Song – They Come

The men they come,
The men they come.
They shape our streets,
And they build our homes.
The men they come,
The men they come.
Cover all the land before they’re done.

And if you should live while they provide,
Then a prosperous life you’re sure to find.
With a wooden door to close at night,
And a solid wall to soothe your mind.

The Wee Men come,
The Wee Men come.
They flood our streets,
And they burn our homes.
The Wee Men come,
The Wee Men come.
Take you underground before they’re done.

And if they should come while you’re alive,
Then you’d better be sure that you can hide.
If they drag you off into the night,
Then they’ll take your soul before your life.

The Tall Men come,
The Tall Men come.
They take our folk,
And they eat our young.
The Tall Men come,
The Tall Men come.
Turn us all to stone before they’re done.

And if they should come while you’re alive,
Then you’d better be sure that you can hide.
For they’ll catch you out with their great strides,
And a long-lived life you’ll be denied.

The screams they come,
The screams they come.
They rend our ears,
And they burn our lungs.
The screams they come,
The screams they come.
And they’ll bleed us hoarse until they’re done.

And if they should come while you’re alive,
Then you’d better be sure that you can hide.
But don’t let yours out while they’re outside,
Or you’ll join your kin on the underside.

The Travellers come,
The Travellers come.
They clear our streets,
As they have their fun.
The Travellers come,
The Travellers come.
Silence all our lands before they’re done.

And if they should come while you’re alive,
Then you’ll thank the walls that you survived.
Now the Tall Men fall and Wee Men die,
And a stillness comes to our fair isle.


From Havelock’s Path: A Stone King Slumbers